The summery hooks and warm lyrics of Modern English's biggest hit, "I Melt with You," gave listeners the impression that the band was an upbeat pop act in the early '80s.
"I Melt with You" was actually an anomaly in Modern English's early discography. Formed in Colchester, England, in 1979, Modern English was originally a punk group called the Lepers. Featuring Robbie Grey (vocals, guitar), Gary McDowell (guitar), and Richard Brown (drums), the Lepers mainly performed at parties. After Mick Conroy (bass) and Stephen Walker (keyboards) joined the band, they changed their name to Modern English and were signed to 4AD Records. Inspired by the stylish gloom of Bauhaus and Joy Division, Modern English released the singles "Swans on Glass" and "Gathering Dust" before recording their 1981 debut LP Mesh & Lace. Boiling with raw anger, dissonant rhythms, and weird noises, Mesh & Lace confused some U.K. critics while mesmerizing others. A year later, the group streamlined their sound, dropping much of Mesh & Lace's gothic experimentation on After the Snow. "I Melt with You" was included on the Valley Girl soundtrack, and its video became an MTV staple. Although "I Melt with You" didn't reach the Top 40 charts in America, After the Snow sold more than 500,000 copies. However, the band's next album, 1984's Ricochet Days, was a flop.
Pressured by their U.S. label Sire Records to release another hit and exhausted from touring, Modern English began falling apart; Walker and Brown were fired from the group. Grey continued recording with different Modern English lineups releasing the albums Pillow Lips in 1990 and Everything Is Mad in 1996. Also in the early '90s, "I Melt with You" was played in a successful Burger King ad. In 2010, Modern English returned with the full-length studio effort Soundtrack featuring production from After the Snow producer Hugh Jones. ~ Michael Sutton, Rovi